Often criticized as advocating for the coal industry, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources is launching reforms meant to help repair the agency's image and make it more responsive to the public. The changes range from closer inspection of coal-ash ponds to stronger ethics rules and better communication with the public during the coal mine permit process. The moves also come as the agency deals with other embarrassing missteps. Those include a department administrator's departure after reports that he attended professional fishing tournaments while on sick leave. And there were recent revelations that two mine-safety regulators accepted political contributions from a coal-mine operator. Neither environmentalists nor the industry believe the reforms are tied to Gov. Pat Quinn's re-election bid. But the sides disagree over whether the permit-process changes are necessary.
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